We’ve all been there before at an event, stuffing goody bags ready to hand over to delegates. But what happens at the end of an event? Have you ever seen delegates offload all the things that they don’t want to carry around? Unfortunately, more often than not, the contents of the goody bag can be the first to be culled!

It got us thinking about the whole goody bag ritual at events. We think it can sometimes be a waste of budget to include items just for the sake of it, especially if they’re going to end up in landfill. Are goody bags necessary at all? Could we find other ways to say thank you to attendees in a way that might be a bit more personal and friendlier to the environment, while keeping sponsors happy at the same time?

So you might upset one or two delegates who really want that neon stress ball or who can’t live without another pack of post-it notes, but in our experience, most delegates would be more than happy with an alternative. What’s more, if you shout loud and proud about your reasons for doing so, we believe you’ll gain recognition and support from attendees and sponsors for ditching the dear old goody bag at your next event!

Anita Macdonald, Event Executive at Meet Cambridge, gives her top alternatives to goody bags…

1. A virtual goody bag

Give a virtual bag – these can be useful when delegates are travelling from overseas – no space required, perfect! Items such as e-books, apps, and passes for online games are always well received. The pack could be delivered right to their inbox and can be branded to help promote sponsors or collaborators. Additional event information, links to blogs and social media as well as satisfaction surveys can also be linked up so delegates can get even more out of the event.

2. Donation to a charity in your host destination

In lieu of a goody bag, tell delegates that you will make a donation to a charity. Choose more than one charity and set up collections boxes at the event. Supply delegates with a counter and instructions to deposit the counter in a charity box of their choice. After the event, you’ll have a reason to contact them when you tell them how much was raised for their charity.

3. E-vouchers

If delegates are going to be in the destination longer than a day, why not give them an e-voucher for a local attraction that they could enjoy post event or in their downtime? Here in Cambridge we can help with branded vouchers for activities, such as punting.

For delegates that may wish to purchase drinks outside of their conference package, an e-drinks voucher may be welcome.

4. Enhance the social programme

Rather than spending budget on contents for a goody bag, why not use the funds to add extra activities to the social programme? I’m sure delegates would like a little treat!

5. Recyclable water bottles & cups

Give delegates a branded refillable water bottle or insulated cup made from recyclable materials on arrival. It’ll be theirs to keep and refill as required – just make sure there are plenty of stations dotted around the event space to make it easy. This will help to encourage delegates to stay hydrated, reduce the need for plastic water bottles and cut down on washing up! Collect any unwanted bottles/cups at the end and send them off to be recycled. Murray Edwards College has recently introduced KeepCups – new, environmentally sustainable, branded cups. They say: “Giving a KeepCup is an ethical and funky way to make your event, meeting or conference even more memorable for your delegates. The cups are affordable at just £5.00 each and provide real value, with the company estimating they will last a minimum of 3 years. They are lightweight, unbreakable and dishwasher safe.”

6. Holistic therapy

Rather than splashing out on goody bags and their contents, provide delegates with the option to re-energise with a short neck and shoulder massage during breaks. This would make it a more memorable experience and add more value than branded merchandise.

7. Pledge a tree

Offer to plant a tree for every delegate that attends the event and share details of their tree or woodland with them after the event. This will help to offset the carbon footprint of your event, provide a legacy for the destination and be a lovely reminder of the event for the delegates. Take a look at www.carbonfootprint.com/plantingtrees for more information about how to go about it.

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